Chief Wagner tells Russian Shoigu about Ukraine’s upcoming attack

(Reuters) – Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a message published on Monday that the Ukrainian military was planning an imminent offensive aimed at cutting off Wagner’s forces from the main body of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Prigozhin said in the message, published by his press service, that the “large-scale offensive” was planned for late March or early April.

“I ask you to take all necessary measures to prevent the Wagner PMC from being cut off from the main forces of the Russian army, which would lead to negative consequences for the private military operation,” he said, using the term used by Moscow. for its war in Ukraine.

This was the first time that Prigozhin had published such correspondence with the Minister of Defence, whom he had repeatedly criticized over the conduct of the war.

The unusual move appears to have two possible goals: to point the finger at Ukraine’s leaders and seek to blame Shoigu, not Prigozhin, if the alleged Ukrainian gambit proves successful.

Prigozhin said that he provided details of the Ukrainian plan and his proposal to confront it in an attachment to the letter, which he did not make public. He did not say how he learned of Ukraine’s intentions.

He said Wagner’s forces currently control 70% of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which they have been trying to capture since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

In separate remarks published by a regional news channel on Telegram, Prigozhin said there was a “high probability” that the southern Russian city of Belgorod could be one of the targets of the next Ukrainian attack.

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He provided no evidence to support his assertion that Ukraine might launch a large-scale attack on a Russian city.

Russia has frequently accused Ukraine of launching isolated cross-border strikes with drones and other means. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for such incidents but described them as “karma” for the Russian invasion.

Reporting by Mark Trevelyan. Editing by Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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